Struggle by Early Nationalists to Secure freedom of press

Nationalist through the use of print media (newspapers, journals and books) started educating, convincing and mobilizing people in terms of spreading the nationalist and patriotic ideas. Almost all the founding members of the Congress in 1885 were either journalist or lawyers. Early nationalist from the very beginning fought to ensure freedom of press. People like Raja Rammohan Roy played a key role in fighting for freedom of press. He protested as early as in 1824 against the Licencing Regulation Act of 1823, restricting the press in India.

Nature of Early phase of Nationalist struggle to ensure freedom of press

  • Early nationalists used press as a tool of mass agitation, Social Reform, Training, consolidation of public opinions, and the Indian National Congress also in its early days for propagating its resolutions and proceedings mostly relied on the press.

Early News Papers

Hindu

  • The Hindu was published under G. Subramaniya Aiyar (a school teacher from Tanjore district) It was a weekly when it was launched in 1878 and in 1889 it started publishing daily.
  • In its initial days The Hindu was liberal in outlook.
  • Subramania Iyer through his newspaper opposed the British Imperialism and fought for India's freedom and also he tried to use his newspaper as a vehicle for reform.

Swadesamitran

  • It was a Tamil language newspaper founded by G. Subramaniya Aiyar, 4 year after the launch of Hindu in 1882 and it was the first Tamil language newspaper owned and operated by Indians.
  • This newspaper was liquidated in 1985.

The Bengalee

  • In 1879, Surendranath Banerjee founded the newspaper The Bengalee and in the year 1883, he was arrested for publishing matter in this newspaper, in contempt of court case.

Voice of India

  • Dadabhai Naoroji started this newspaper in 1883.

Amrita Bazar Patrika

  • It was started by two brothers Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh in 1868 and initially started as a weekly newspaper.
  • It also advocated for the rights of peasants who were exploited by Indigo planters and in 1920 the Russian communist leader Lenin, termed Amrita Bazar Patrika as the best nationalist newspaper in India.

Kesari (The Lion)

  • It was a Marathi language newspaper by Balgangadhar Tilak published in the year 1881.
  • This newspaper played a key role during Indian National Movement particularly Swadeshi Movement.
  • Tilak propagated the idea of immediate self-rule or Swaraj through this newspaper and defended revolutionaries and also due to this reason Tilak was charged with sedition by the British.
  • Kesari is also known for its reporting in a particular controversial case of Madness of Shivaji VI the minor raja of Kolhapur, (a princely state in Bombay Presidency at that time), in which it opposed the official views of British, i.e. king suffering from some incurable disease.
  • This newspaper is in publication till date.

Maharatta

  • It was an English language newspaper published under Balgangadhar Tilak in 1881.
  • The aim of the newspaper was to arouse the political consciousness in the common masses.

Sudharak

  • Gopal Ganesh Agarkar resigned from the editorship of Kesari and started his own weekly, Sudharak , in 1888.
  • It was an Anglo- Marthi work in 1888 from Poona. For initial 10 years the respective weekly was bilingual and Agarkar used to edit the Marathi section and Gokhale, the English one.

The Tribune

  • It was founded in the year 1881 from Lahore by sardar Dyal Singh Majithia and it is still a popular English daily.

Other main newspapers included Hindustan and Advocate under G.P. Verma, Indian Mirror under N.N. Sen, Akbhar-i-ant in Punjab, Gujarati, Indu Prakash, Dhyan Prakash and Kal in Bombay and Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal.

Important role imparted by Early Nationalist via Newspapers

  • These Newspapers had a wider reach even to the remotest villages and they stimulated the library movement in India. The main aim of these newspapers was to render national and public service rather than making profit out of this venture.
  • People became aware of govt policies and acts through these newspapers and also the policies were put to critical scrutiny.

Nationalists and the British Policies

Although govt enacted many strict laws like Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, to restrict the freedom of press and to check disaffection against the Govt of the day but Nationalist simultaneously evolved many clever strategies to overturn these legal hurdles in the following way-

  • Critical writing of socialist or Irish Nationalist used to be quoted and hostility to the government was sometimes prefaced with loyalty towards government.
  • Intelligent mix of simplicity and subtlety was present in the writings of Nationalist.

From the initial phase of the Indian National Movement itself the freedom of the press was the vital demand. During famine incidents of 1876-77 the newspapers were critical of the British policies under the then Governor General Lytton. This criticism led to the enactment of Vernacular Press Act of 1878.

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